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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Return to Sender on Senate Bill 5

Article first published as Return To Sender on Senate Bill 5 on Technorati.

Get the facts is a common statement in the months of October and November during election campaigns...But what really are the facts, in particular to Ohio's Senate Bill 5? (A note to all non-Ohioans, this is an important bill facing judgement.  Ohio is on pace to lead the direction for the balance of the country regarding the issues listed in this original 400+ page bill.)

Let's face it, facts get misrepresented or contorted depending on which side of the vote you are trying to sway.  I want to know the facts before I can make an informed decision.

So, let's get the facts straight about SB 5.  First we need to realize that this bill is complicated by the controversial debate on what is right for our schools and more importantly our students and our citizens.  It puts many issues on the table that need to be, but with a bill this large we need to realize it becomes inept at being a yes or no issue.  For the purpose of review, this article becomes the (KISS) keep it simple review that will lay out what, we the people, are voting on. 

Who will the bill affect directly? This bill is directed toward public workers....including, but not limited to teachers, fire fighters and police officers, which will directly affect our communities.
The bill is designed to cut costs and balance a budget that needs tending to.

What gets cut in the SB 5 bill? First item: No striking along with no collective bargaining in unions, which would include charter schools.  Unions are the 3rd party negotiators for workers such as teachers, to ensure proper or fair and appropriate working conditions. 

Currently on the table are benefits discussions.  The bill introduces a flat 15% payout by these employee's in regards to their health benefits.  It would be a mandated changed for said employees.  Many teachers have already accepted, as a result of collective bargaining, this proposed increase.  Teachers recognized that there was a need to cut spending and they accepted the increase.  There is a wide range of what percent is being paid by employee's, currently, but on average it will increase from 8% to 15% of their pay.  Some might represent this as a 50% increase, which it is in some cases, but going from 8 to 15% is not a bad solution to help cut the budget. Most of us have seen these increases passed down to us already.  Why should these employee's get a cheaper rate?  We are all living in defunk economic times, so cuts need to be made.  This seems like a logical one, which many teachers have already accepted.  This would favor a yes vote for me...BUT there is more.....

The next item on the table is teacher performance reviews.  The discussion lies in how they are evaluating a teacher.  This is interesting because unless a complete proposal is done on how they expect to review the teachers, one is not able to vote on something that they can't see.  If we take away collective bargaining, which most employee's, in general, do not have, the metrics and deciding factors on an evaluation are left up to the company.  At first glance this sounds like it should be fine to accept the change on performance reviews because all employee's, no matter what company you work for,  should achieve merit and remain in good standing, BUT....if teachers are going to be evaluated on test scores alone, than we have a whole new problem.

School districts that are in communities with high parent involvement and larger resources, such as my own, will not have many issues.  These children come ready to learn and most often exceed state standards.  What happens to districts that are not given money to attract good teachers?  What about the districts that don't have high parent involvement or face other factors such as single working parents or even abusive circumstances?  The test scores of the children are highly affected by those factors and if teachers are left to test scores alone, who is going to be teaching these children?  The effective teachers with descent skills will be knocking on the districts doors that are in the "good" districts.  An effective and compassionate teacher needs to be teaching where the education gap exists.....this bill would eradicate those good teachers and leave the children with an even larger gap.  If a complete proposal was done, such as a full market analysis along with student test scores and teacher involvement inside and outside of the classroom, then accepting this change would be much easier.  While I agree value added is a good direction to take teacher evaluations, left as value added alone, the debate still goes on and we are left to say NO to senate bill 5.

Here is another one....performance pay and sick leave.  Public employee's are allowed to be paid on unused sick leave.  In times of economic gains, this is a great perk.  We all know we don't live in times of great economic gains.  I agree that cutting the banking of sick leave would aid in the decrease in our budget.  Public employee's have the right to use unions to negotiate pay.  I wish I had a union when I was negotiating my salary.  Who goes to bat for me?  The chain of command recognizes my efforts and will agree with my request for an increase if it is warrented by merit and  both parties concur.  I would say I can agree with this portion of the bill.

Additionally, firefighters and police officers are being asked to accept a top down proposal of how to run their services for our communities.  In the case of budget cutting, at times, resources have to be cut and this fiscally makes sense.  But, I do not say yes to leaving holes in communities that need additional services to keep their streets safe.  There is a difference between an inner city community that needs considerable help to make the city safe and who fight many fires while doing so and an affluent community that sits around, waiting for a false alarm, all while topping out at a salary of $110,000 (you read that right).

We have many tiers of issues in this bill.  To give a yes on this bill leaves a margin of error too big for me to allow to loom over our communities, our students, our teachers, and our citizens. It doesn't mean I don't believe that we need to address all the issues in Senate Bill 5, but it does mean that I vote it down with a no and ask that they go back to the drawing board and separate these issues out with a complete proposal to reform our education institutions for the betterment and not just to solve our budget deficit issues alone.

Our future is in education.  The children of 2day become the adults of 2morrow.  Education is what keeps us evolving.  To build a 21st century school system to compete globally and even in our own backyards, we must embrace change. With change comes a learning curve.  With the growth of charter schools, the data from The No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top, we are learning.  We need to utilize new business strategies and get rid of our old school mentality institutions, but we need to be smart about it and look at how our choices 2day will affect 2morrow.

 It becomes about needs and wants.  If we cut our schools to balance a bunch of wants we think we NEED to have in our government, than what does our future hold?  We need to make sure that people making decisions, including, we the people, know what the consequences of our choices will be.  There are consequences enough in over spending, but we need to figure out what matters most.  In my world, education is what fuels the future of 2morrow.  My vote will be no on SB 5.

Occupy Wallstreet means something.  Those that are making the policies and budgets need to be included in the changes that are to take place.  Our country needs reform and it needs not to be segregated reform based on who is who and how much you make.  Making money is not bad in and of itself, but hording it for yourself becomes greed.  We need to work on doing what is right and responsible. 

Bottom line, Governor Kasich is trying to balance a budget.  It is his job. is also his job to make sound decisions that take into effect how the choices made will affect the future of our state.  The future of our country lies with the children and the opportunities they receive.  If we apply his business strategy which is being paraphrased here.....providing a better product for a lower cost.....we are up against strong forces.  Can we really provide a better product for a lower cost?  Being a previous merchant myself, I know that is hardly possible....not impossible, but rarely possible.  Cuts bring lower quality no matter how you look at it.  We know Sam Walton's company has major buying power, but no matter how you look at it, when costs are cut, they appear in the product some where along the way.  I think Mr. Kasich needs to take a look at his strategy and lay out how effectively he is going to provide a better product for a cheaper cost.

Governor Romney was heard speaking out in support of SB5 at a phone bank to rally the troops , but later gave an  update stating that state governments should be able to make decisions on their own regarding important matters of policy. While I agree with that statement, I believe Governor Romney owes the American Voters his stance on this subject seeing that it is a national matter on the go forward.

For me, my stance is a NO vote for SB 5.  Governor Romney....the floor is all yours.   

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